The customer is king – make sure you can meet their demands

I’ve had an interesting couple of days at UCISA’s User Support Conference. Sometimes the events I attend are all geared up to strategic aims, working within Government frameworks etc but this one is attended by those that are really at the coal face and dealing with ICT services customers on a day to day basis. And they will be an increasingly important part of ICT services in the future especially if the cap comes off fees and student expectation of services increases further. They will be the first point of contact for your customers.

So some initial highlights. We were treated to an excellent opening from Ajay Burlingham-Böhr from Anglia Ruskin who extolled the virtues of the Lean process to streamline processes, structure, support demands and skills. The Lean process emphasises that you cannot achieve effective business transformation through technology alone – processes are a critical part of that process. From the case studies I’ve seen Lean alone delivers real benefits and those institutions that have implemented it have delivered real efficiency savings. Perhaps in the current times one sensible investment would be for a Lean team to be established in every institution.

Ajay also highlighted a number of key points. Service is key and you need to put the customer at the heart of what you do. This will become increasingly important when (not if – I expect it will happen) the cap comes off fees and students are paying more for their courses and related services. So make sure your service delivers and your staff are equipped the skills they need to reduce resolution time for problems and deliver a good customer service. Cut out unnecessary waste. One way Anglia Ruskin equipped their staff was by giving staff two hours a week for knowledge exchange. Harking back to the good old days, this was achieved though having social space where everyone used to congregate once the formal advisory session had finished (well before the days of 24 hour support). The advisors coming off duty talked about the problems that had been brought to them and so the following day’s shift was well informed. These days such time has to be scheduled in order to make sure that knowledge transfer happens. The thing is I suspect that the value of the informal exchange has not been recognised – those institutions that don’t recognise that exchange will need to install more water stations to get the informal information exchange going if they are not going to be left behind.

So key messages from Ajay’s presentation: put the customer at the heart of what you do. Only do what delivers value to them. Eliminate the waste from your processes and equip your staff so that they can respond to the needs of the customer as effectively as possible.

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